Following a trail can be great, and a safe bet, but sometimes you just want to explore on your own and blaze a trail that hasn’t been touched! West of Millarville on Highway 549 there are a ton of places to park and explore. We stopped just outside of the equestrian only campgrounds in the Mesa Butte Recreation Area and headed into the trees.
Note that you shouldn’t go off trail snowshoeing without a GPS (that you know how to use) and extra batteries. You can’t rely on following your tracks out because terrain can vary and precipitation can fill your tracks over time. There are trails in the area if you don’t have a GPS or are unexperienced, be sure to pick up a map!
We ventured west through the pines to the top of a nearby hill. This area is right in the foothills at the base of the mountains so there are great views to be seen. We could hear the sound of gun shots in the distance, as there is also a popular spot for shooting just north on the same highway. Something to also be mindful of.
We came across a pheasant and other small wildlife as well as scat from deer and elk. So keep your eyes peeled for animals in the area! Take your time and explore the dense forests and open meadows at the top of the hills. Depending on the depth of the snow a place to stop for lunch might be difficult as this is a relatively uninhabited area. But we cleared off a log and had a snack before we continued onto the top of another hill for an even better view of the valleys.
Overall a great area to come for a casual snowshoe where you can set your own pace and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding trees and hills. Nearby there are day use areas where you can have a fire after a long day of snowshoeing, a real treat!